Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

under other governments, but we must not forget that in “merry England” such things have been. In the reign of the Conqueror, and in the city of Bristol, we are told, slaves male and female were openly sold. “ There might have been seen fastened together by ropes, whole rows of wretched beings of both sexes (a sight sufficient to excite pity even in barbarians), daily offered for sale to the first purchasers." Till a comparatively late period, the detestable system of “villeinage,” or confining a man to the soil on which he was born, was not abolished.

The operations of commerce, during the Saxon and Norman times, were, necessarily very limited. With the Thane and Baron, the only noble employments were war and hunting. To these, and especially the first, they were trained from early youth, and for this purpose a number of idle, licentious, and hard hearted ruffians were to be maintained, at the expence of the toil, blood, and sinews of the labourer, born to minister to their gratifications; and the loss of all manly freedom. Nearly every craftsman or artificer was in bondage. The smith, the mason, and the carpenter, were slaves, equally with the ploughman, the forester, and the swine-herd. Most who traded with the natives were foreigners, though now and then some adventurous individual from the ranks of the “Freemen ” burst through conventional usages, and acquired wealth as a merchant. He however did this at the price of much obloquy and insult from his contemporaries. The money lenders of this period were nearly all Jews, who were for the most part persecuted with the most savage barbarity. Confiscation, imprisonment, and torture of the most horrible kinds, were frequently and freely inflicted on them, and yet,“ sufferance was the badge of all their tribe," and they contrived to avenge themselves on their inhuman persecutors, by gaining possession of nearly all the little ready money of the time, and by lending it to their persecutors at the most exorbitant interest. Perhaps no writer has more truthfully, as well as more graphically described the condition of the Jews in the dark ages, than Scott in his splendid romance of Ivanhoe.

The mention of this tale leads me to remark, that no work, I am acquainted with, gives so lively, and at the same time, I sincerely believe, a truer picture of the general state of society during the period of which it treats, as this justly celebrated novel. That the incidents are fictitious, does not in the slightest degree diminish the verisimilitude

of the whole. The proud, cruel Norman baron, the sturdy Saxon Thane offering an unavailing resistance; the licentious Templar; the unprincipled leader of the mercenaries; the burly friar; the degraded serf; with the wily, suspicious, but by no means ungentle Jew, and his daughter, one of the most perfect of our author's conceptions, the high souled, pure minded Rebecca, all are so skilfully pourtrayed, so carefully discriminated, the colours are so fresh from the imagination, the sentiments so warm from a noble heart, that time cannot be mis-employed in reading, as I am not ashamed to confess I have read, again and again, this magnificent and at the same time, truthful story. The hymn of Rebecca, just after her sentence, is so every way beautiful, that widely as it has been circulated, none can be displeased at its repetition here :

When Israel, of the Lord beloved,

Out of the land of bondage came,
Her Father's God before her moved,

An awful Guide in smoke and flame.
By day, along the astonish'd lands

The cloudy pillar glided slow;
By night, Arabia's crimson'd sands

Returned the fiery column’s glow.
Then rose the choral hymn of praise,

And trump and timbrel answered keen,
And Zion's daughters poured their lays,

With priests' and warriors' voice between.
No portents now, our foes amaze,

Forsaken Israel wanders lone,
Our Fathers would not know Thy ways,

And Thou hast left them to their own.
But present still, though now unseen,

When brightly shines the prosperous day,
Be thoughts of Thee, a cloudy screen,

To temper the deceitful ray.
And oh! when stoops on Judah's path,

In shade and storm, the frequent night,
Be Thou long-suffering, slow to wrath,

A burning and a shining light.
Our harps we left by Babel's streams,

The tyrant's jest, the Gentile's scorn;
No censer round our Altar beams,

And mute our timbrel, trump, and horn.
But Thou hast said–The blood of goat,

The flesh of rams, I will not prize;
A contrite heart, a humble thought,
Are mine accepted sacrifice.

B. M. B.

EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY.

No. III.
AUTHENTICITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.

If an inquirer after Religious Truth, who had not hitherto known any thing of Christianity, were anxious, now at length, to investigate its claims to his acceptance, and for this purpose undertook an examination of those ancient writings, which teach what Christianity is, and which, in their collected form, we call the New Testament; the first question presented to him for solution would be this, Were these writings, especially those of them which profess to be historical, written by the persons whose names they bear; in other words, are they authentic ? The first method by which we shall endeavour to answer this question will be by the examination of the New Testament itself. * If the books composing it are as ancient as they profess to be, they must contain in themselves the marks of having been written in that age

and

country; for every period and every region has its peculiarities, which imprint themselves on the literature produced in it; and investigation will show us that the style, the language, and the contents of these books, when compared with what we know from independent sources, stengthen the idea that they are the work of those to whom they are ascribed by Christians.

I. It may be broadly stated that there is nothing in the books which are now under our consideration, which is opposed to the belief that they are authentic. It is well known that any one who attempts to impose on mankind, by giving to a work of his own composition the appearance of antiquity, or attaching to it some honoured name, has a most difficult task to perform, and can scarcely escape detection. Some inaccuracy in historical or geographical fact; some accidental use of words unsuited to the character he is assuming ; some mistake as to the manners and customs of the period concerning which he writes, almost always betrays him. No

* When we assert that the Christian Scriptures were written by those whose names they bear, we do not intend to express an opinion as to whether the Epistle to the Hebrews is the work of Paul, or whether 2nd Peter that of Peter; or whether 2nd and 3rd John, and Revelation are any or all of them the work of John the Apostle, or some other John; the opinions of critics being much divided on these points. Whenever we speak of the authenticity of the books of the New Testament, we mean that all (with the exception of these five) were written by those whose names they bear in our English Bibles, and that these five were the work, either of those to whom they are there ascribed, or of some other early Christians.

J

other writings ever underwent such a searching investigation, as that to which those of the New Testament have been subjected; an investigation, in many cases arising from no friendly motive, and yet no one peculiarity, no single word, has ever been pointed out in them, which can be proved to cast any doubt upon their authenticity. Is it possible that any deceiver, or band of deceivers, could have invented or compiled a curious and unprecedented history; could have divided it into four parts, so as to give it the appearance of being recorded by four independent writers ; could have assigned to each of them a peculiar style of his own, and preserved this style through his division of the work; could have added a further narrative in a separate book; could have invented a number of letters, (the most difficult of all literary productions to fabricate); could have reproduced the manners, the modes of thought, the peculiar prejudices, and passions of a bye-gone age; could have attained a co plete precision with regard to facts of general history, and to places, incidentally mentioned; and that the most minute criticism, the most laborious research, should be unable to find one single trace of such an origin, in any part of the writings themselves ? No experience which the world has ever had would lead us to believe that such a deception could escape detection; it is impossible. The negative argument is therefore a very strong one; the fact that there is nothing in the New Testament to prove that it is not the work of apostles and apostolic men, is in itself a very strong presumption, in favour of the belief that it is.

II. This presumption is strengthened to demonstration, when we see the many points in which the Scriptures themselves confirm their alleged authorship. For the sake of clearness, these

may

be distributed under several heads :1. Language :—The dissimilarity of style in the different books shows that they are the work of different authors. The difference, both of the matter and of the manner, between the first and fourth gospel, between the epistles of Paul and those of John, is very apparent even in the English translation. The Christian Scriptures were therefore written by several persons, and if the books are authentic, these persons were Jews, and had been educated in a country, in which the Aramean, the language of the Jews in our Saviour's time, was spoken. But why then have they written in Greek ? Because this language was, in the time of Christ, the general vehicle by which literary productions circulated through the

more civilized part of the world, and the medium of communication between the people of different nations, brought into contact by Roman conquest. This is shown by Josephus, who says he wrote his history first in the language of his countrymen, but afterwards, “ for the convenience of those living under the government of the Romans, translated it into Greek.”* Indeed this language was especially common in Palestine, as those Jews, who, for

purposes of commerce, lived abroad, at Alexandria and other places, mixing with their countrymen at home and at the festivals, spread the knowledge and use of it. We find Greek inscriptions on monuments and coins, throughout the East, and even in Jerusalem. The translation of the Jewish Scriptures into Greek long before the time of Christ, proves how much connection the Jews had with those who spoke it, and we are told that this version of the Old Testament, written in Alexandrine Greek, was used even in the synagogues of Judea.t We need not wonder, then, that the New Testament is written in Greek.

But it is a sort of Greek, which would never have been used by a native Grecian. It is the peculiar dialect of strangers, and contains many oriental idioms. A slight acquaintance with the original languages proves that the writers must have been intimately acquainted with the Aramean; many of its words are used, as Raca, Ephphatha, Corban, &c. ; idiomatic phrases are found, as the use of the word children in the phrases, “ children of light,” “ children of wrath,” and many others; the structure of the sentences resembles that of the Hebrew; the allusions to the ceremonies and commands of the Old Testament, are evidently made by those who were familiar with them. Examples and proofs of these assertions might be very much multiplied, and they form a mass of evidence, so conclusive, that probably no scholar could examine the New Testament Greek, without being convinced by its peculiarities, that it was written by those whose acquaintance with the Aramean was such, as could be gained only by habitual residence in Palestine, and such as proves the writers to have been Jews by birth and education. Their style also proves them to have lived before the destruction of Jerusalem, for that event introduced such changes in the Jewish language, as to give it a very

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »